CAAMFest 36, May 10-24

Activist's Spoken Word Piece Sheds Light on Undocumented and Uninsured

May 14, 2014

 

While millions more now have access to health care thanks to the Affordable Care Act, many millions of undocumented people in the U.S. still lack coverage. The California State Senate is currently considering the Health for All Act (SB 1005), which would expand Medi-Cal, California’s version of Medicaid, to undocumented immigrants who would otherwise qualify. Undocumented immigrants would also be eligible to buy insurance through Covered California, the state-run health exchange. The bill, which recently passed the health committee, will be heard in Senate Appropriations on May 19 in Sacramento. Below, Akiko Aspillaga shares a spoken word piece about her family’s experience as undocumented and uninsured Americans.

--Momo Chang, Senior Contributing Editor

 



For
the last fourteen years, my family has not have access to medical care. My
mother is in her 60s, and while her heart remains young, her body is not. Growing
up, I witnessed her struggle with her health. I saw that she had no recourse except to numb her pain with ineffective over-the-counter medications. I wrote this spoken word piece to help people understand the everyday reality of what it means to
be undocumented and uninsured.

As a
California resident, I am proud that my state is a leader in spearheading
programs that tackle health inequality. I hope my fellow Californians will stand with us in solidarity to expand health care access and help protect lives in our community.

 

Only
for a moment

 

“I
don’t have time to see the doctor”

“I’m
healthy enough”

“You
worry too much”

 

May 9,
2013

Mama
exclaimed proudly

“Anak,
I may be old again, but I still look like I’m 40”

And
yet she feels

a
boulder she estimated at 3,500 tons weight

sits
perched on her fragile back

Her
headaches are like an earthquake

with a
magnitude of 8.0

it
destroys the foundation of her skull

ignites
fires in her temples that runs to the base of her neck

Unable
to stand the quake

She
drinks Tylenol like she drinks water

But
only for a moment she can breathe again

For a
moment she is young again


Her
once strong hands

hands
that climbed Mt. Pinatubo and Mt. Fuji

Hands
that carried me as a baby

Have
grown weak

Unable
to grasp my hand strong enough to feel me

Hands
inflamed from an autoimmune reaction

leading
to synovial hypertrophy and chronic joint inflammation

Technical
words that are not enough to describe

the
limited movement of her hands

and
the deformity of her once slender fingers

Again,
she drinks Tylenol like water

But
only for a moment she can breathe again

For a
moment, she is young again

 

Day
after day, I hear her voice haunting me

“Anak,
if I die, sell all my jewelry, my possessions

so you
can bury me without debt

But
anak, if I go to the hospital

I will
bury you in debt.”

Her
words penetrated my very core

A
virus that invaded the foundation of my immigrant justice

While
I protest, rally, tell my story

While
I go to college to pursue my dreams of being a nurse

While
I feed patients, clean their wound, give them medication

My
mother is in pain - older and sicker-dying


Her
body gives warning signs everyday

It
taunts me as if to ask

who do
you fight for?

what
do you fight for?

An
immigration reform that will only make me wait

Wait
15 years for proper care

Wait
15 years for tests to figure out the origin of my pain

Wait
15 years to get prescription for the right medication

“Anak,
everyday, I am dying”

Right
now she doesn’t have a choice but to

Drink
Tylenol like water

So for
a moment she can breathe again

For a
moment, she is young again

 

I feel
my bones tatter and tear

skin
burning ash

Feel
numb from the fire that runs through my nerves

12
hour shifts, organize, study full-time

I
don’t realize how difficult it is to breathe

Consciously,
I feel my diaphragm drop

lung
tissues slowly expand

taking
more effort than usual

I run
out of energy

To try
to shield her from the cruelty, the pain

and
heal her  

So I
drink Tylenol like I drink water

To
breathe again

To be
young again

But I
am also dying

 

*** 

Akiko Aspillaga immigrated to the United
States from the Philippines at the age of 10. Due to a lack of
resources and false information from her mother’s employer, she fell out of
status. In Fall 2013, she graduated
summa cum laude from San Francisco
State University with a B.S. in Nursing. Akiko fights for immigrant rights with ASPIRE, the first pan-Asian
undocumented youth-led organization in the nation, to raise the voices of API
undocumented immigrants, challenge the mainstream view of immigration, and advocate for the passage of pro-immigrant policies. 

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